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Pop Sunday

Sorrows / Love Too Late…The Real Album

Sorrows

Love Too Late…The Real Album (Big Stir Records 2021) 

https://bigstirrecords.bandcamp.com/album/love-too-late-the-real-album

During the late seventies and early eighties, Sorrows held ground as one of the hottest bands on the hustling and bustling New York music scene. The group’s debut album – Teenage Heartbreak – chalked up gushing reviews, prompting a highly anticipated sequel. But forces beyond the band’s control drastically altered the intended sound and vision of Love Too Late, resulting in artistic and commercial disappointment. 

Here it is, forty years on, and the album in its initial form is finally seeing the light of day. Re-labeled Love Too Late…The Real Album,  the collection is available on both vinyl and compact disc. 
Had the album been released as originally recorded, there is no argument it would now be branded a classic of it punky power popping stripe. Each of the eleven cuts are tunefully-crafted and portray Sorrows as a young and hungry band firing on all circuits.

 The group’s kinetic energy is positively contagious, especially on numbers such as Play This Song (On The Radio), Street Punk Blues, What I Used To Know and Love Too Late, which are further emboldened by jabbing hooks and gripping choruses. And then there’s Christabelle, a tasty Merseybeat-inspired pop jewel strapped tight with crackling guitars, clicking breaks and vibrant melodies.

 A catchy reggae arrangement anchors Crying Time, The Kinks are given a shout-out on a tough and edgy cover of Tired Of Waiting For You and Breaking My Heart (Over You) is a big ballad slick with Badfinger aspirations.

 Zinging with excitement, Love Too Late…The Real Album plugs in as a quintessential piece of new wave-era pop rock. Sorrows sure had a good thing going, and although we can’t rewrite history, how wonderful it is the album that was supposed to be survived and is now accessible to hear and enjoy.

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Pop Sunday

JEM Records Celebrates Brian Wilson

Even those with a casual interest in music are aware The Beach Boys sit at the top of the totem pole, as one of the most successful and influential bands of all time. This year marks the sixty year anniversary of the birth of the band – which was founded by visionary leader Brian Wilson – and in honor of the milestone, JEM Records has put together a terrific tribute album starring a sea of familiar faces from the indie community.

 Although JEM Records Celebrates Brian Wilson mainly focuses on well-known songs rather than deep cuts, a fair share of these tracks are rendered in unique ways. As an example, The Weeklings turn in an a cappella adaptation of The Warmth Of The Sun, while their cover of Help Me Rhonda approximates a raspy-throated blues approach. Then there’s Nick Piunti’s gritty and grungy take of Hang Onto Your Ego and a loud and stomping version of Do It Again from The Midnight Callers

The Grip Weeds tackle the cartoonish progressive pop of Heroes And Villians with form and finesse before diving headfirst into the hard rocking intensity of Roll Plymouth Rock, then flipping the switch right back to Heroes And Villians again. 

Another left-field offering includes Lisa Mychols and the Super 8’s Pet Sounds (Story), which quotes lyrics from select Beach Boys songs over ethereal textures and spacey instrumentation. The Golden Needles additionally strive for the unusual, as the band plucked Love And Mercy from Brian Wilson’s 1988 self-titled solo album and expanded the piece into a big and bold production of polished pop glory.

The Anderson Council’s harmonious jangle of Girl Don’t Tell Me is nearly as good as the original recording, and Richard Barone’s delivery of the emotionally effective In My Room is highly impressive. Richard also teams up with Johnathan Pushkar on the perpetually perky I Get Around, and as for Johnathan himself, his reprises of the heart-tugging Please Let Me Wonder and the endlessly energetic Dance Dance Dance shine with reverence and enthusiasm.

 Albums such as JEM Records Celebrates Brian Wilson can be a challenge, especially when saluting a band as phenomenal as The Beach Boys. But here’s a homage that works by presenting both the expected and unexpected, not to mention a crew of artists whose respect and understanding of the music they’re playing can’t be denied. Long live The Beach Boys and these great musicians who contributed their talents to the album. 

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Pop Sunday

Lannie Flowers / Home

Lannie Flowers

Home (Spyderpop Records/Big Stir Records 2021)

https://lannieflowers.bandcamp.com/album/home

 Originally released during the latter days of  2019, Home by Lannie Flowers has recently been given the reissue treatment by the newly-formed partnership of Spyderpop Records and Big Stir Records. Resurrecting the album was a great idea, because here’s a set of tunes pleading to be heard by as many people as possible.

 For those of you not hip to Lannie Flowers, the Texas-based singer, songwriter, guitarist and keyboardist staged his first serious musical move in 1976 with The Pengwins. The band remained together until the early nineties and are now regarded as cult heroes among the indie crowd. Lannie also led The Lannie Flowers Band and has an artistically rewarding solo career, with Home logging in as his third effort.

Sophisticated storytelling, compounded by row after row of intrepid melodies and ambitious arrangements pad every single song on the album. Delivered in Lannie’s rich and sturdy pipes, which are glazed with a roots rock accent, the material on Home crackles with raw emotions. Whether he is self-analyzing or sharing tales about characters who are lost and searching, Lannie makes his words and music come alive.

Triggered by pretty piano playing and yearning vocals, Missing You Tonight eventually thickens into an exhilarating exhibition of electrified instrumentation, topped with a blush of beautiful bluesy George Harrison styled guitar work, while the commanding Shine A Light proposes a similar epic quality. Devised of snappy hooks, a bounce per ounce and an adventurous break, Just Go To Sleep addresses insomnia, and It’s All Over growls and grinds to a fierce hard rocking pitch.

 Polished and catchy, Anyway shifts gears towards the end of the song and slings a shot of jazzy big band sounds into the mix, where Free To Dream is a John Mellencamp inspired slice of heartland rock centered on a girl who grew up too fast and is struggling to deal with the consequences. Shades of The Kinks and Mott The Hoople are cast upon the title track of the album, which sparkles with jumpy piano notes, a gripping rhythm and harmonious tones.

Balanced by power and sensitivity, Home observes Lannie riding high on both a musical and lyrical level. He nails it at all angles, resulting in an outstanding album that transcends time and space.  

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Pop Sunday

The Palace Guard / All Night Long: An Anthology 1965-1966

The Palace Guard

All Night Long: An Anthology 1965-1966 (Omnivore Recordings)

 These days, The Palace Guard are either a footnote in history or primarily remembered as the band that included Emitt Rhodes on drums (later to be replaced by Terry Rae) who went onto front The Merry Go Round, then launch an influential and critically acclaimed solo career. But the Hawthorne, California based group actually enjoyed a great deal of regional stardom and deserved to be heard on a far wider scale.

The other original members of The Palace Guard were the Beaudoin brothers – John on vocals and keyboards, Don on vocals and rhythm guitar and  David on vocals and tambourine – along Mike Conley on background vocals, lead guitarist Chuck McClung and bassist Rick Moser. A job as house band at the Hullabaloo Club in Hollywood, complemented by appearances on local television programs, granted the group a high profile in and about the area.

During their tenure, The Palace Guard released half a dozen singles that were as solid as anything their chart-topping contemporaries were peddling. Each side of these forty-fives have been compiled onto All Night Long: An Anthology 1965-1966, which offers rare photos and liner notes by Rick Moser

Synchronized harmonies – couched in the  seam of The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Beau Brummels and The Byrds – were  key compotents in the Palace Guard’s repertoire. Not only could these fellows carry a tune, but they proved to be quite a tight team in the instrumental department.

 As well, The Palace Guard had the initiative to pen a few of their own songs instead of relying on cover material, which was pretty much the norm for many bands at the time. Jingly guitars and plucky rhythms, magnified by a cute and chirpy chorus of “coochie coochie coochie coo,” energizes the insanely catchy All Night Long, while rolls of spinning carnival-styled organ chords underline Calliope and the moody Greed is peppered with exotic Middle Eastern psychedelic-scented motifs.

Also a self-composed piece, Oh Blue (The Way I Feel Tonight) possesses a curious appeal, touching on plaintive  teen idol crooning, shifting tempos, ringing folk pop and ending with a snappy Yardbirds– inspired rave up. 

Each song on All Night Long: An Anthology 1965-1966 has merit, but the crown jewel of the set is perhaps Falling Sugar.  Taking in The Palace Guard’s strong and melodious vocal prowess, a spirited arrangement, chiming licks a plenty, spiffy breaks and a dash of wheezy harmonica playing, the infectious cut fuses Mersey-minded pop instincts with West Coast folk rock sensibilities in an immediate and direct manner.

 Don Grady, who held the role of the eldest son on the hit TV show, My Three Sons, joined The Palace Guard on a pair of numbers – the breezy Little People and the Tijuana Brass flavored Summertime Game, where an adaptation of Wilson Pickett’s If You Need Me examines the band laying down a slow burning soulful groove. Authored by future Bread master David Gates, the bouncy Saturday’s Child is no stranger to fans of sixties music, as the version by The Monkees is the one that we’re familiar with.

 In an alternate galaxy, The Palace Guard would have seized the airwaves with their hooky singles. But good songs refuse to die, and All Night Long: An Anthology 1965-1966 contains such evergreen entries. There’s no doubt this fine collection will spark a renewed interest in The Palace Guard. 

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Pop Sunday

Jeremy Morris and Ken Stringfellow / Distant Dream

Jeremy

Distant Dream (JAM Records 2021)

 It is always a thrill when our favorite musicians stage a collaboration. Distant Dream is a such a project, which features the pairing of illustrious solo artist Jeremy Morris – and frontman of The Jeremy Band and member of The Lemon Clocks – and Ken Stringfellow, whose shining credits include The Posies, the reformed Big Star, REM and The Minus 5, as well as a solo career. Here on this excellent album, Jeremy takes care of vocals, guitars and songwriting duties, while Ken handles vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards and production chores. 

By sharing the same work ethic and musical values, Jeremy and Ken boast an instant rapport. An affinity for sixties and seventies pop rock spurred the guys into parenting their own visionary creations that have been wowing consumers and critics since the late eighties. Although Jeremy and Ken travel in similar circles, Distant Dream marks the first time they have joined forces.

 The title track of the album is a dazzling beauty, amplified by waves of atmospheric drafts, intertwined with potent keyboard and guitar arrangements. A gorgeous glow further costumes You’re Amazing, which contains an arresting blend of blinking piano chords, vibrant melodies and a feathery chorus.

Ignited by a static beat and twitchy hooks, Alone Together gradually gives way to a wash of electrifying  guitar strokes. The clingy tune effectively communicates the boredom and loss encountered during the lockdown, where ringing rhythms mirrored by a harmonious folk pop tenor define Joy Comes In The Morning, which also references the virus crisis, but ensures the situation is only temporary and better days are ahead. 

A needling groove and a scolding tone dictate This Story’s Ended that shoots dagger-dappled lyrics at an abusive, offensive and rude individual, and the duly branded Stay Positive steps in as a lively lick of encouragement. The sole non-original number on the album is an inspired cover of Big Star’s Thirteen, a brittle ballad greased with teen romance. 

Free of fuss and focusing on tightly-laced songs tempered by power and precision, Distant Dream is every pop rock fan’s passport to paradise. Jeremy and Ken make a great team, so let’s keep our fingers crossed that they continue their partnership. 

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Pop Sunday

Big Stir Singles / The Tenth Wave

Various Artists

Big Stir Singles: The Tenth Wave (Big Stir Records 2021)

https://bigstirrecords.bandcamp.com/album/big-stir-singles-the-tenth-wave


Chaos and confusion often produces great art – and the disastrous year of 2020 certainly motivated many musicians to flock to the studio and transmit their thoughts onto tape. That said, the main thrust of material on Big Stir Singles: The Tenth Wave, which involves singles released between October and December 2020, addresses and comments on the pandemic pandemonium. But this is no dreary affair, as the disc buzzes with energy, moments of humor and wit, and visions of a better day.

Connoisseurs of quirky British pop stationed in the seat of XTC and Robyn Hitchcock are sure to glean much pleasure from Whelligan’s Anyone Who Never Had A Heart and the psychedelic-tinted Rabid Hole. Then there’s NPFO Stratagem checking in with a cocktail lounge version of Jello Biafra’s Nazi Punks Fuck Off, along with an enthused take of Ringo Starr’s Back Off Boogaloo.

Popdudes also join the cover game via The Guess Who’s powerful Share The Land and the gorgeously silky soul of O-o-h Child that was a hit in 1969 for The Five Stairsteps

October Surprise signs on with the hypnotic sing-songy rhythms of (Just Can’t See) The Attraction and a sophisticated rendition of John Cale’s Paris 1919, where D.F.E’s I Say We Take Off And Nuke The Site From Orbit contains a mesmerizing mishmash of grunge rock, experimental pop and weird psychedelic effects. Both bands are actually pseudonyms for The Armoires, the revered Burbank, California based group featuring Big Stir label owners Rex Broome and Christina Bulbenko. The band birthed a string of fantastic singles under different names that have recently been issued as a complete album, cleverly titled Incognito as The Armoires

Navigated by a nasty sneer, the hard-edged bite of Funhouse by The Incurables blends punk elements with heavy metal guitar flash in a highly appealing manner, The Speed Of Sound’s choppy and economical Radio State spawns a solid Lou Reed influence, and mylittlebrother’s Song About Amsterdam clicks and clacks to a vaudeviile vibe before turning into something resembling a Hungarian waltz. 

The Ice Cream Hands deliver a real showstopper with Can You Feel My Love, which gushes and glows with divine harmonies, exuberant melodies and polished arrangements. Generated by chiming Byrds– inspired guitars and intoxicating hooks and breaks, Octagon from the dynamic duo of Anton Barbeau and Allyson Seconds plugs in as another utterly flawless piece of pop rock magic, as well as Nick Frater’s California Waits,  that streams forth to a swinging and spunky temper attired in dapper instrumentation and rich and radiant vocals.

For the past two years, our good friends from the Big Stir headquarters have been knocking out singles on a weekly basis, resulting in a series of universally acclaimed albums. Big Stir Singles: The Tenth Wave marks the final episode of this particular odyssey. But have no fear, because these creative folks are on a roll and will eternally unleash the kind of cool and crafty fare we have come to expect from them. 

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Pop Sunday

Bruce Moody / Forever Fresh

Bruce Moody

Forever Fresh! (Counterfeit Records 2020)

https://brucemoody.bandcamp.com/album/forever-fresh

 
Vocalist, songwriter and multiple-instrumentalist Bruce Moody began his professional music career as a teenager in the late sixties. Circus, Walkee Talkee and The Private Numbers are just a brief mention of some of the bands he performed with. His resume further entails a solo career, recording at Norm Petty’s legendary studio in Clovis, New Mexico, and session work with Willie Nelson and Mickey Gilley.

Bruce retired from music in 1991 to raise a family, but was never forgotten by his devoted legion of fans. So here it is, three decades on, and Forever Fresh!, a collection of  predominately previously unreleased material from 1979 to 1986 is now available. Bruce’s good friend Terry Carolan – who most of you know from bands like True Hearts, Blue Cartoon and Heirs Of Fortune – assisted in the remastering of the project and appears on a handful of songs.

 Had these tunes been issued at the moment they were produced, there is no doubt they would have volleyed straight to the top of the charts. Bruce’s pitch perfect pipes, matched by plump and pealing guitar chords and clusters of clasping hooks, encompass everything there is to love about classic AM radio. Solid compositional techniques, and the ability to deliver the songs with confidence and conviction also smack of star quality.

 A high energy expedition from start to finish, Forever Fresh! is the kind of album begging to be listened to at maximum volume when cruising the sights on a warm.and sunny Sunday afternoon with the windows wide open. Be it the aching bounce of This Is It, the slapping groove of Survival or the purebred power popping punch of glistening gems such as Don’t Look Back For Me, One Desire and Simple Love, you’ll find yourself humming along with happiness. 

Etched of rounded rhythms, jarring breaks and levitating harmonies, both You Do and Gotta Move Away echo the early efforts of The Who, the finely textured Rainy Day shifts and swerves with ravishing melodies, and Terminally Hip features a jumpy tenor and concludes to a nice little rocking jam.

 Due to the period the songs on Forever Fresh!  were conceived, new wave elements – involving tottering keyboards and a sheen of polish – are additionally part of the program. Following the scriptures of The Rubinoos, The Knack and The Romantics, Bruce wedded his passion for sixties pop to a modern edge, leading towards a repertoire of enduring and exciting sounds. Considering the positive response Fresh Forever! has received, perhaps a fire has been lit under Bruce and we can expect more great music from him in the near future. 

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Pop Sunday

The Legal Matters / Chapter Three

The Legal Matters

Chapter Three (Futureman Records 2021)

https://futuremanrecords.bandcamp.com/album/chapter-three


We’re not even halfway into the year, and already an abundance of phenomenal music has been released. Parked right at the top.of the pile is the third album from The Legal Matters, which is appropriately dubbed Chapter Three. Comprised of singers, songwriters and instrumentalists Andy Reed, Chris Richards and Keith Klingensmith, the Michigan-based band roped in “unofficial member” Donny Brown to play drums on this remarkable album.

 Brimming brightly with layers of luscious harmonies and reels of rock solid melodies, Chapter Three spools out one serviceable pop tune after another. Echoes of artists such as The Beach Boys, The Eagles, The Smithereens and Matthew Sweet may be apparent, yet The Legal Matters possess the proper tools to refurbish these influences into their own recognizable style.

 An exquisite  ballad, The Painter, pins heart-wrenching lyrics to plush and expansive arrangements, resulting in a spellbinding survey of sadness and beauty. Vibrant vocals, teeming with power and polish, aided by a spot of swirling Hammond organ fills a la Procol Harum, also carpet the striking track.

 Conceived of shifting tempos, Independence Well Spent juggles soft textures with a menacing crunch, and the jingling bounce of Please Make A Sound captures everything that constitutes a perfect pop song. Spiked with the whirring zoom of a synthesizer, Light Up The Sky illuminates the band’s incredible lung prowess and telepathic musicianship to towering heights. 

Fashioned of a dance hall beat that would prompt Ray Davies to glow with paternal pride, The World Is Mine pedals in as a subsequent revelation, while the atmospheric patterns of Passing Chord yields a lovely choral pop vibe.

 Stuffed to the stars with smooth and stately pop pleasures, Chapter Three is the kind of album that has no expiration date. These great songs are so timeless that they could have been recorded in any era. The Legal Matters boast both the talent and wisdom to craft and perform long-lasting music, and having said that, I can hardly wait to hear their next chapter of sonic creations. 

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Pop Sunday

Richard Turgeon / 10 Covers, Volume 2

Richard Turgeon

10 Covers: Volume 2″ (2021)

https://richardturgeon.bandcamp.com/album/10-covers-volume-ii


Every so often, Richard Turgeon takes a breather from crafting his own superb songs, and picks tunes of his favorite artists to tackle. The material included on the San Francisco Bay Area one-man band’s “10 Covers: Volume 2” slides in as the second installment of his recycling project, and features tracks that were released as digital singles over the past year.

The selections presented on this effort – which span different eras and styles –  generally follow the template of the initial versions. That is definitely not a bad thing, as some of these songs stand as of the most beloved of all time. Turgeon’s taut and durable vocals, paired with his cracking instrumental techniques, simply crystallize the qualities that made the cuts so appealing in the first place. 

Whether he is channeling the alternative rock of Hole’s “Malibu,” the twelve-string jangle of The Byrds’ “I’ll Feel A Whole Better” or the driving beat of Flesh For Lulu’s “Postcards From Paradise,” Turgeon approaches the songs with earnest enthusiasm.

 Other entries heard on “10 Covers: Volume 2” are The Mamas and the Papas’ luscious harmony-laden “California Dreaming,” T,he Cure’s punchy “Just Like Heaven,” and Neil Diamond’s “I’m A Believer” that was of course popularized in frisky fettle by The Monkees. 
Potty Mouth’s jaunty punk flavored “22,” The Bobby Fuller Four’s heartbreaking ballad “A New Shade Of Blue” and Oasis’ sweeping and soaring “Live Forever” also appear on the set.

 And how fitting it is Turgeon pays homage to Tom Petty on “10 Covers: Volume 2,” considering much of his original work invokes comparisions to the late icon. The song Turgeon elected to revisit is “Learning To Fly,” which adds a layer of  muscular guitar mettle to the mix. 

An eclectic choice of offerings, “10 Covers: Volume 2” is a nice thank you note to the musicians who have inspired Turgeon. Excellent indeed! 

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Pop Sunday

John Larson & The Silver Fields

John Larson and The Silver Fields

The Great Pause (Shiny Fly Records 2021)

https://johnlarsonandthesilverfields.bandcamp.com/album/the-great-pause

 
Power popping roots rock bands are a dime a dozen. Yet it takes a certain  congregation of musicians to stand out in the pack. John Larson and The Silver Fields are such a group.

 Consisting of lead singer, songwriter and guitarist John Larson, guitarist and keyboardist David Richardson, bassist John Simpson and drummer Jen Macpherson, the Rhode Island based quartet proves their worth time and time again on “The Great Pause,” which marks their third album.

 Prompted by taut and grounded performances, every number on the ten track collection is not only direct and concise, but energetic and exuberant. Larson’s strong and vibrant vocals contain just the right mix of toughness and melody, while the band’s chops remain persistently sharp and nimble. Treading similar turf as acts like Tom Petty and Gin Blossoms, John Larson and The Silver Fields specialize in playful tunes composed of smart and catchy storylines. 

Wrapped in thrumming rhythms and tasty breaks, “Jericho” logs in as one of the many golden eggs laid on “The Great Pause,” along with the rolling and ricocheting reflexes of “Perfect Crime,” which is beaded with jittery new wave-coded keyboard runs. 

A call to get down and boogie fires the funky spunk of “Are You Willing To Move?” and “Blue Mind” involves a glowing arrangement of lilting licks and summery harmonies.

 The band’s indelible knack for jangly country folk rock rises forth on the strutting stride of “Told Ya” and the booked-with-hooks “Reversible Heart,” where the equally infectious “Progress” is sprinkled with a spot of soul-seasoned stardust.

 Those with an appetite for toned pop rock, baked in a southern-fried sauce, will be thoroughly satisfied with “The Great Pause.” John Larson and The Silver Fields definitely know their stuff and have both the talent and discipline to turn their bright ideas into reality.